Review of Books by Phil Goodstein
The Heart of Historic East Denver
Curtis Park is where residential Denver began. In the course of the 1870s, it started to fill with opulent Victorian manors. After the severe financial collapse of 1893, it was increasingly a working-class abode. The park proper, at 32nd and Curtis streets, quickly emerged as the people’s gathering spot, bringing together a wide array of individuals of Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, Mexican, and Jewish heritage. Nearby Five Points, the intersection of 26th Avenue with 27th, Welton, and Washington streets, grew in the early 20th century as the heart of black Denver.
All of this and a lot more in is Phil Goodstein’s latest book, Curtis Park, Five Points, and Beyond: The Heart of Historic East Denver (Denver: New Social Publications, 2014), ISBN 0–9860748–0–2, vi + 438 pp, $24.95. As is the case with his previous volumes, it is extremely well illustrated. The text probes everything from the people of the area and their institutions to ghost lore to political commentary. This enclave, off to the northeast of the central business district, Goodstein argues, is a microcosm of Denver, reflecting the hopes and agonies of the metropolis.
Mail orders, including tax and postage, are $23.00, from New Social Publications, Box 18026, Denver 80218. Internet addicts can get it from capitolhillbooks.com and who_else@ATT@net. For more information, contact New Social Publications at 303/333–1095.
The Haunts of Washington Park
Denver’s Washington Park has received its due. Residents have flocked to the greenery virtually from when it was created in 1899. During recent decades, it has been far and away the city’s most popular park. Surrounding neighborhoods are filled with everything from simple duplexes to hidden-away palaces to trendy modern homes. South High School anchors the southern end of the Washington Park neighborhood. Off to the east is another favorite spot, Bonnie Brae. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the stretch of South Colorado Boulevard close to Washington Park was the site of such baby boomer destinations as Celebrity Lanes and the Cooper Theatre.
All this comes together in a fascinating new book on the lore and people of South Denver, The Haunts of Washington Park by acclaimed Denver historian Phil Goodstein. In addition to a most impressive chapter tracing the origins and evolution of the open space, the volume reports its ghostly lore, including a misbehaving young woman on the island in the park’s southern lake and the possibility that a forlorn sailor is condemned to sail eternally on its northern lake.
The volume goes on to examine the people and places in surrounding neighborhoods. There is the tale, for example, of the Captain’s House, a residence west of Washington Park modeled on a Mississippi River steamboat. The Haunts of Washington Park also looks at such distinctive business strips as those on Old South Gaylord Street and South Pearl Street. Most intriguing is a peek at the manors hidden away south of the Denver Country Club. Added to this is the story of the demolished Park Lane Hotel close to the park, a place where the Beatles once allegedly stayed.
Even as it reports the lore about South Denver neighborhoods, this extremely well-illustrated volume also examines political and social problems. It looks at the intense debates over McMansions and efforts to rezone properties close to Washington Park. The Haunts of Washington Park further reports on area newspapers, politicians, and, improvement associations.
The result is a wide-encompassing canvas of this crucial part of Denver’s past and present. The reader comes away with the feeling of having been invited into homes where he gets the inside gossip and lowdown on why the Washington Park area is such a desired spot. The book belongs in the library of anybody who appreciates Denver, has visited Washington Park, or wants to know what makes the city tick and the essence of its life.
Author Phil Goodstein is a Denver native who holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Colorado. He has widely published over the years, examining the city in a six-volume study looking at Denver from the Pikes Peak gold rush into the 21st century. The Haunts of Washington Park is part two of a trilogy, The Haunted History of South Denver. Volume one, The Spirits of South Broadway appeared in 2008, dealing with the Broadway corridor from Cherry Creek to Englewood. The third part, The Ghosts of University Park, Platt Park, and Beyond will come out in 2010. The Haunts of Washington Park adds to the city and lets the populace shape its future by appreciating its past.
Denver: New Social Publications, 2009. vi + 302 pp. ISBN 0–9742264–4–0. $19.95. maps, illustrations, index.
The Spirits of South Broadway
Spirits flutter along and haunt South Broadway. Such is the message of a fascinating new book on Denver south of Cherry Creek along Broadway. Phil Goodstein’s The Spirits of South Broadway is a penetrating look at South Denver’s main street from the time of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush into the 21st century.
South Denver, Goodstein observes, was at the heart of the original gold strikes in the region in 1857–58. Though they never paid off and prospectors soon went elsewhere, South Denver emerged in the 19th century as a most distinctive suburb. At one time, Broadway was lined with impressive mansions. Dreamers and schemers populated the area. They even hosted a version of the world’s fair in 1882–84, the National Mining and Industrial Exposition at South Broadway and Exposition Avenue—the latter road received its name to denote it was the location of the fair. (Center Avenue, one block to the north, was at the center of the gathering.)
In the course of the 1880s, Broadway Terrace blossomed as a most desirable residential enclave to the south of West Sixth Avenue and to the west of Broadway—the city came to denote the neighborhood as Baker in the 1970s. It filled with showcase Victorian architecture while South Denver settlers projected themselves as crusading puritans who were building the American dream to the south of the Mile High City. No place was this more obvious than in the Town of South Denver, an independent jurisdiction stretching from Alameda Avenue to the South Platte River to Yale Avenue to South Colorado Boulevard. Denver swallowed it in 1894.
As South Denver grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was home to everything from the city’s first golf course at Overland Park to an industrial district to the home of a wide array of distinctive stores. The last especially stood out by the 1920s when Broadway between approximately Sixth Avenue and what became I-25 emerged as the Miracle Mile, a row of shops, promoters insisted, that was the world’s largest department store. A commanding eight-story Montgomery Ward anchored the southern end of the district. Its evolution is a story in itself, one The Spirits of South Broadway sympathetically treats, showing how the store reflected the changing character of the neighborhood and city as a whole.
South Denver was also a factory area, the home of Gates Rubber and Samsonite, the city’s two foremost manufacturing plants, at a time when Denver had a significant industrial sector. Besides looking at them, The Spirits of South Broadway also tells about the time when numerous radium processing plants were in the area. Residents then literally saw floating figures late at night: glowing images of workers who left the plants whose clothing was contaminated with radioactive wastes!
Side by side of looking at the businesses, houses, churches, and parks of South Denver, the volume concentrates on the people of the area. It is filled with quaint and unusual stories stretching from how South Broadway was once a crooked street to the doings of South Side pioneer John L. Dailey. The book tells about the area’s schools and traditions as it follows the uneven evolution of the area through the post–World War II decades into a revival that began in the 1970s to the achievements of today. Along the way, it observes some of the less than even successes of promoters and settlers.
The cover of The Spirits of South Broadway features a stunning photo of the Indian atop the Mayan Theatre. The story of that cinema is naturally part of the mix along with tales of the Webber Theater at 119 South Broadway, a foremost movie palace that degenerated into a porno house. The interaction of the past and presence, Goodstein continually stresses, is the heart of history and provides a dynamism and color to the area and the city.
Goodstein is best known for his The Ghosts of Denver Capitol Hill. He has also written a commanding six-volume history of the city from its origins in 1858–59 to the end of the 20th century. The extremely well-illustrated The Spirits of South Broadway is the first of a “Haunted History of South Denver” trilogy. Volume two, slated for publication in 2009, is The Haunts of Washington Park. The third part, The Ghosts of University Park, Platt Park, and Beyond will come out in 2010. For a review copy of The Spirits of South Broadway or to schedule an interview with Goodstein, call 303/333–1095 or philgoodstein@gmail.
Phil Goodstein. The Spirits of South Broadway. New Social Publications, 2008. vi + 298 pp. ISBN 0–9742264–3–2. $19.95. 146 illustrations, index.
|Denver Wins World War IIFrom Soup Lines to the Front Lines: Denver during the Depression and World War II, 1927–1947
Everything from a shipbuilding plant to armament factories to the “arsenal of bureaucracy” to Victory Girls marked Denver during World War II. While citizens sacrificed and contributed to the victory, politicians squabbled. The war saw the community deeply divided on the presence of Japanese-Americans in the state. Different factions competed in trying to forge their version of the postwar world.
All these developments were in keeping with the upheavals which had rocked the Mile High City during the first half of the 20th century. Prior to the war, Denver especially struggled to survive the Great Depression. Self-help organizations spread through the commonwealth during the 1930s. Unemployed wanderers came and went. Governor Edwin C. Johnson raged against migrant “job thieves” when he called out the National Guard in 1936 to impose a “bum blockade” against Mexican job-seekers. Simultaneously, the governor arranged for Colorado to have an official state liar in view of the wide disrepute politicians had with the public.
These themes and much more are examined in depth in Phil Goodstein’s new volume, From Soup Lines to the Front Lines. The thick, well-illustrated volume probes how events impacted everyday people. This not only included the grandiose efforts of the New Deal, but how local developments of the 1920s, such as the completion of the Moffat Tunnel touched the citizenry. Along the way, From Soup Lines to the Front Lines tells how Colorado had already been torn apart by the first Columbine Massacre of November 21, 1927, when members of the state Law Enforcement Department killed six protestors on a picket line outside of the Columbine Mine in Weld County. The book further looks at Ralph Carr, the state’s wartime governor who took on Washington’s attack on civil liberties during the fighting in the name of preserving the Bill of Rights.
From Soup Lines to the Front Lines is the fourth and concluding volume of Goodstein’s monumental Denver from the Bottom Up, a comprehensive examination of the city and the state from the Pikes Peak Gold Rush through World War II. It combines an immense learning with a sympathetic understanding of who made up the community and why different forces so squabbled as they sought a decent existence. Political cartoons, copies of flyers, and vintage photos highlight the text. Previous volumes of Denver From the Bottom Up are From Sand Creek to Ludlow, Robert Speer’s Denver, and In the Shadow of the Klan.
For more information about From Soup Lines to the Front Lines, to get a review copy, or arrange an interview with Goodstein, call or write New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218; (303)333–1095. Information about Goodstein and his tours and books is available through www.atticbookstore.com. and www. leonardleonard.com.
Phil Goodstein. From Soup Lines to the Front Lines: Denver during the Depression and World War II, 1927–1947. Volume four of the four-volume Denver from the Bottom Up. Denver: New Social Publications, 2007. 576 pp. ISBN 0–9742264–2–4. $29.95. 231 illustrations, index.
|More Books by Phil GoodsteinThe Seamy Side of Denver.
Denver: New Social Publications, 1993. 288 pp. $18.95. ISBN: 0-962-2169-19.
The Seamy Side of Denver is a new outrageous, fast-paced volume on the Mile High City’s shady past. The story of how Market Street was once literally a flesh market where more than a thousand women sold their charms before World War I, how certain rooming houses had “two maids” on duty for guests for many years, and the nature of striptease in the Queen City and its pubic wars are but the beginning of the numerous bizarre and fascinating tales featured in this alternative history of Denver. Schemers, as much as dreamers, argues author Phil Goodstein, are central to understanding the evolution of the Mile High City.
This well-illustrated, 288-page volume begins with a visit to Denver’s Union Station. There the author takes readers on a tour of the facility, looking for ghosts and tunnels, while talking about how Denver emerged as a binge city in the 19th century where visitors were viewed as victims of swindlers and hustlers. The action then turns to the red-light district as the history of both legal and illegal prostitution is chronicled. “Take it off!” is a chapter on burlesque houses in the Mile High City. Other chapters look at notorious murders, the dubious events which have happened at certain Denver hotels, the “sky pilots” who have stood out on the spiritual scene and the scandalous events which occurred when the Ku Klux Klan briefly dominated Colorado politics in the mid-1920s.
“Policing the Seamy Side” is a particularly controversial chapter on the Denver Police Department. The focus is on the time when nearly ten percent of the city’s police officers were implicated in a burglary ring in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The Seamy Side of Denver also reports on the close ties between Elvis Presley and members of the Denver Police Department. A photo shows Elvis in a Denver police captain’s uniform while the text explains how Presley once came to present members of the force with limousines. The chapter also talks about Molly, a woman who specially serviced police officers and fire fighters in the days of yore.
The Seamy Side of Denver is not a history of crime and criminals. Rather, Goodstein seeks to explore what the seams in Denver’s fabric mean, the character of the people who have operated in the demimonde, and the way the seamy side has interacted with the customs and traditions of Denver as a whole. While now and then the stories seem pretty outrageous, such as the one about the floating heads in the tunnels under the Colorado Capitol, the general tone is a serious treatment of this part of Denver’s past and present.
In addition to his new volume, Goodstein is also the author of Denver’s Capitol Hill, South Denver Saga and Exploring Jewish Colorado. He has conducted numerous walking tours of Denver through Colorado Free University. Not everybody, he admits, has been pleased with his presentations of the city’s past and uncovering some of the skeletons in Denver’s closets. Precisely to emphasize that Denver has been home to all sorts of people, he started giving a specialized tour of “The Seamy Side of Denver” through Colorado Free University in the fall of 1989. The result is this book.
The Seamy Side of Denver lists of $18.95. A special offer through Leonard Leonard & Associates makes it available via mail order for $17.50, postpaid, to New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218.
Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic.
Denver: New Social Publications, 1994. Illustrations, index, bibliography. 11 x 81/2 inches. ISBN: 0-9622169-2-5. viii + 144 pp. $16.95.
There’s a method to their madness. That’s the message of Phil Goodstein’s new book, Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic. This 152-page coffee table-sized volume is a detailed study of Denver’s street names. In fascinating detail, the author tells how the streets were named and numbered.
In the course of the 19th century, Denver’s streets were a chaotic hodgepodge. Streets were continually renamed and renumbered. The result was a multitude of small roads whereby nobody was precisely sure how to find his or her way around town. Numerous ordinances were passed labeling and relabeling the city’s roads. When all that changed, how Denver roads have come to be dominated by a series of alphabets, why First Avenue is the first numbered avenue in town, which streets recall pioneers, and much, much more are the focus of Denver Streets.
The study of the city’s roads, the author observes, is not only an investigation of the city’s history, but is also an excursion into geography, biography, and botany. This especially comes out in the chapter on “Today’s Streets.” Here all of the major roads on the Denver grid system are listed. The volume attempts to specify origins of their names and the nature of the different theme alphabets through the city. The previous names of the current roads are then listed.
The book also includes a chapter on “Yesterday’s Streets.” Here the reader discovers that the city once had such roads as Banana Street (Josephine Street), Diamond Avenue (West 27th Avenue), and Tippecanoe Street (South York Street). These lists will prove invaluable to anyone who has to deal with the city’s past and where previous buildings were located.
Denver Streets is not just limited to Denver. Besides focusing on the roads of the Mile High City, there is a discussion of the past and present names of streets in Arvada, Aurora, Englewood, Edgewater, Thornton, Littleton, Westminster, and the other towns which are part of the greater Denver street grid. Indeed, a major theme of the volume is that the street system provides an essential link giving an overall unity to the metropolis.
Numerous illustrations highlight Denver Streets. In addition to many maps of yesterday’s Denver, the volume includes shots of some of the unusual and diverse street scenes and street signs from the city’s past and present. All of this is complemented by a long essay on the evolution of the streets along with a discussion of sources and a detailed index.
Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic lists for $18.95. It is available for $17.50, postpaid, from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218.
Murders in the Bank Vault:
The Father’s Day Massacre and the Trial of James King.
By Walter Gerash as told to Phil Goodstein. Denver: New Social Publications, 1998. viii + 336 pp. ISBN: 0-9622169-6-8. $18.95.
It was the crime that shocked the city. On Father’s Day 1991, four bank guards were brutally murdered in the depths of the so-called Cash Register Building, the headquarters of the old United Bank of Denver. No sooner had they been executed with bullets to the backs of their heads than six tellers found themselves facing a masked, armed intruder who made off with nearly $200,000 in cash. These events were called the Father’s Day Massacre.
From the outset, the police believed this to be an inside job. But despite an intensive investigation, they could not turn up any concrete evidence. After more than two weeks of futilely trying to determine who was responsible for these heinous deeds, they focused on a retired Denver police sergeant and former bank guard, James W. King.
Upon King’s arrest, five of the tellers, who had not previously identified King as the gunman, identified him in a six-man photo lineup as the robber. On this basis, the media had a field day of branding King Denver’s bank robber of the century.
Walter Gerash—Rocky Mountain Thunder—entered the case as King’s attorney. A dynamic lawyer who has roared through Colorado courts since the 1950s, Gerash had earned a reputation as a fighting attorney who took politically charged cases and represented unpopular defendants accused of committing sensational crimes.
The trial of Jim King garnered massive attention. Nationally televised on Court TV, it lasted for more than a month. Elvis Presley, Peter Coyote, and Harrison Ford made cameo appearances in the case. The jury took nine days to reach its verdict in the longest deliberations in Denver history.
Murders in the Bank Vault is Walter Gerash’s story of what happened that Father’s Day. He traces the nature of the crime, the police search, the career of Jim King, and the court proceedings. In the process, his courtroom style comes out. So does his political commitment, view of the jury system, and his fighting demeanor. Peeks at his life and some of his other colorful and controversial cases are included in the volume.
Gerash is joined by Denver historian Phil Goodstein. The author of numerous books on the city, including The Seamy Side of Denver and The Ghosts of Denver, Goodstein sees Gerash’s career as embodying much of the modern history of the Mile High City. Together, they weave a fascinating tale of true crime, the legal system, and the way a dynamic attorney protects popular liberties against an oppressive system.
Murders in the Bank Vault lists for $18.95. It is available for $10.00, postpaid from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218.
Denver in Our Time: Big Money in the Big City.
Volume one of a two-volume set. Denver: New Social Publications, 1999. 504 pp. ISBN 0-9622169-7-6. $24.95. 200+ illustrations, index.
Denver has continually sought to make itself over since World War II. During the past half century, waves of urban renewal, sprawl, frenzied growth, and booster projects have repeatedly swept the Mile High City. Business, community, and political leaders have embraced sports as the metropolis’ identity. All the while, many residents have treasured the Mile High City as a magical enclave in a beautiful climate. These contrasting forces and contending factors have added up to a dynamic city marking Denver in Our Time.
A lively, well-illustrated book by Phil Goodstein with countless original and archival photos, Denver in Our Time is anything but an ordinary volume on local history. Focusing on the people, politics, and institutions of the Mile High City over the past two generations, Denver in Our Time: Big Money in the Big City notes a stark polarization of the town between citizens loving their city and an arrogant corps of Denver haters who continually denounce existing institutions as not good enough as they seek to transform Denver into a “great city.” Understanding how these competing interests have clashed and the products of their efforts is at the heart of the study.
The first part of a two-volume set, Big Money in the Big City, as the name implies, examines exactly who owns and rules Denver. A lengthy chapter probes the origins and powers of Colorado’s biggest banks, real estate investors, and corporations. In the rich tradition of muckraking, the author exposes how the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce seeks to operate as a shadow government, pulling the strings in the region.
The impact of big money pervades the lives of everyday Denverites. It affects how the news is reported, the quality of the colleges, the nature of the arts, and transportation patterns. This comes out in chapters looking at such institutions as the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Auraria Higher Education Center, and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority. Denver in Our Time further shows the close connections between the Regional Transportation District and real estate interests. Other chapters look at the origins and evolution of the 16th Street Mall, the character of lower downtown, and how the Platte floodplain became transformed into the Central Platte Valley. The volume closes by exploring Denver’s voices of opposition.
In addition to conducting a wide array of city walking tours, author Phil Goodstein is known for his iconoclastic potshots at the existing heroes of the region. Through his monthly newsletter, The Naysayer, he has questioned the existing consensus about the region. In his previous books, including The Seamy Side of Denver, Murders in the Bank Vault, and The Ghosts of Denver, Goodstein has provided a far different slant on the area than found in other accounts of the city. He promises volume two of Denver in Our Time: Corporate Consolidation, will continue the story, examining the racial polarization of modern Denver, the breakdown of the school system, the rise of a new political machine dominated by Federico Peña and Wellington Webb, and the machinations behind Denver International Airport.
This path-breaking book is required reading for anyone interested in the Queen City of Mountain and Plain. Denver in Our Time: Big Money in the Big City, retails for $24.95. It is available for $22.50, postpaid, from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 18026.
DIA and Other Scams.
Volume two of a two-volume set, Denver in Our Time: A People’s History of the Modern Mile High City. Denver: New Social Publications, 2000. 560 pp. ISBN 0-9622169-8-4. $24.95. 200+ illustrations, bibliography, index.
The extreme bungling and cost overruns of Denver International Airport (DIA) were no accident. Nor was the collapse of the Bush family-connected Silverado Savings. All the while, urban sprawl is not something that simply happens; it has been planned, being most profitable to sections of the business community. DIA, Silverado, and sprawl have close links. Not only were many of those involved with Silverado key backers of DIA, but the thrift and the airport were nurtured by a new urban political machine. Such is the thesis of Phil Goodstein’s new book, DIA and Other Scams. By examining the specific developments of the Mile High City over the past couple of generations, he has painted a picture of modern American municipal politics.
Volume two of author Phil Goodstein’s challenging two-volume Denver in Our Time, a look at the Mile High City since World War II, DIA and Other Scams starts by examining the city’s racial tensions. Chapters on the history of blacks and Chicanos in the area link up with the controversies over school busing in the 1960s and 1970s and the general agony of the city’s public schools. Not only did the Columbine Massacre eventually stem from such developments, so did the emergence of Federico Peña who shook up the political establishment when he won the mayor’s race in 1983.
Peña is a central character in DIA and Other Scams. Far from accepting him as a liberal, Goodstein claims Peña is a staunch conservative, at one with the region’s most powerful bankers and real estate interests. It is no accident the former mayor has emerged as the representative of a Wall Street firm, having endlessly advocated the “public/private partnership” while in office. In practice, this meant giving the private sector whatever it wanted
Denver, according to DIA and Other Scams, is a national model. Under Peña, a new urban machine emerged, one openly appealing to residents’ race and ethnicity while serving corporate Denver. This was the crux of how the mayor was able to push through a new convention center and airport. The volume is filled with specific details on the whos, whens, wheres, and hows of the process.
In addition to chapters on the evolution of downtown, DIA and Other Scams looks at the impact of the neighborhood movement, debates over water policies, and the character of the Denver Public Library. Sections specifically deal with Peña’s political career and the background and triumph of Wellington Webb.
Most of all, as the volume’s name implies, DIA and Other Scams focuses on Denver International Airport (DIA). Nearly one-fifth of the volume is devoted to a detailed sketch of its origins, controversies, and problems. Goodstein argues that far from an urgently needed effort to improve transportation, the field was primarily designed as a real estate speculation ploy, one assuring worse air travel conditions for locals. DIA also allowed city hall mass funding to reward friends, including backers of Silverado Savings, and strengthen the public/private partnership.
Author Phil Goodstein does not expect everybody to agree with his views or the book’s conclusions. A self-described naysayer, he seeks to understand exactly how the city works and who benefits from what programs. A lively, sometimes polemical style, complete with strong opinions, gives DIA and Other Scams special flavoring. Goodstein, a Denver native who holds a Ph.D. in history, has previously written such tomes as The Seamy Side of Denver, The Ghosts of Denver, and Denver Streets.
DIA and Other Scams is the concluding part of Goodstein’s monumental two-volume Denver in Our Time. It takes up where volume one, Big Money in the Big City, left off. In that work, Goodstein examined exactly who runs Denver, the nature of 17th Street, the reason for the city’s intense sports fixation, the impact of the oil boom and bust of the 1970s and 1980s, and the origins of lower downtown. By grasping the city’s past and the forces which have made the present, Goodstein claims, residents can shape their future. This is why he labels his work “a people’s history of the modern Mile High City,” a book designed to help citizens take command of their destiny.
DIA and Other Scams retails for $24.95. It is available for $22.50, postpaid, from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 18026.
From Sand Creek to Ludlow.
Volume one of the four-volume Denver from the Bottom Up. Denver: New Social Publications, 2003. 490 pp. ISBN 0–9622169–9–2. $24.95. 200+ illustrations, index.
Everyday people built Denver. This is the central message of Phil Goodstein’s Denver from the Bottom Up. The volume explores the emergence of Denver as a city in the 19th century. Besides probing the Pikes Peak gold rush of 1858–59 and how Colorado achieved statehood in 1876, it looks at who settled the city and the state. The volume focuses on the vital role of women in the 19th century, the emergence of a social safety net, and the way Denver became a city worth living in.
Most of all, Denver from the Bottom Up looks at workers. During the 1880s, the Mile High City emerged as a vibrant trade union center. By the turn of the 20th century, Colorado was the most heavily unionized state in the country. Such leading figures as Big Bill Haywood and “Mother” Mary Jones were central figures in both Denver labor battles and national union clashes. Corporate Colorado bitterly fought back, eventually breaking the union upsurge in the Ludlow Massacre of April 1914.
Besides Ludlow, violence had already marred Colorado in 1864 when the full power of the territory was turned against peaceful Indians in the Sand Creek Massacre. The 50 years between Sand Creek and Ludlow frame the volume. In exploring what they meant and why, From Sand Creek to Ludlow is the apt subtitle of the volume. It is an indispensable source for anyone seeking an introduction to the origins of Denver and what makes the city tick.
From Sand Creek to Ludlow lists for $24.95. It is available, postpaid, for $22.50 from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218.
Robert Speer’s Denver, 1904–1920:
The Mile High City in the Progressive Era.
Volume two of the four-volume Denver from the Bottom Up. Denver: New Social Publications, 2004. 560 pp. ISBN 0–9742264–0–8. $24.95. 247 illustrations, index.
Despite the immense studies on American Progressivism over the past half century, amazing gaps in the literature remain, especially of how various provincial cities and states responded to the reform impulse of the early 20th century. This the subject is addressed in great detail vis-à-vis Denver and Colorado in Phil Goodstein’s Robert Speer’s Denver, 1904–1920: The Mile High City in the Progressive Era.
Robert Speer was among the foremost urban bosses in the pre-World War I era. His Denver machine, the Big Mitt, was second to none in stealing votes and delivering for its financial backers. Simultaneously, Speer was very much an activist mayor, heavily touting city beautiful policies. Among others, he greatly impressed Lincoln Steffens who heralded Speer as a model mayor.
Nobody was more critical of Speer than Ben Lindsey. Starting out as a member of the Speer machine, Lindsey rapidly turned into a critic as he crusaded for children’s issues. At the same time Lindsey collaborated with such people as Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams as he built the international juvenile court movement based on his Denver experiences, he blasted corporate Denver as nothing less than a vicious beast of prey mauling the citizenry. This especially came out in his 1910 muckraking classic, The Beast.
In 1906, Lindsey ran for governor as an independent. Among those whom he bitterly attacked in the campaign was the candidate of the Socialist Party, William D. “Big Bill” Haywood, who was then incarcerated in Idaho on the charges of plotting the assassination of ex-Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg. Here Mile High politics brought together the numerous strains of American urban and social tensions in the decades before World War I.
Goodstein’s book recognizes this, focusing on the class biases of the different players. In addition to analyzing the business ties of many of the Colorado Progressives, he examines who the local socialist and labor activists were. He also focuses on the heavy religiosity of many of the urban reformers and looks at how city beautiful policies affected everyday residents.
Robert Speer’s Denver includes vital glimpses at such favored Progressive programs as the abolition of child labor, the push for Prohibition, the character of public health, and city planning. It likewise examines Colorado politics at a time when LaFollette’s Magazine labeled the commonwealth “probably the worst-governed state in the Union.” Women are omnipresent in the book—Colorado was the national model of equal suffrage in the debates over the adoption of the 19th Amendment.
The heavily illustrated, 560-page study concludes with a lengthy section delving into the linkages between Progressivism and the country’s involvement in World War I. George Creel, who was Woodrow Wilson’s right-hand man in mobilizing the citizenry against Germany during the war, had previously played a major role in Denver Progressivism. In addition to looking at how political leaders rallied the populace for the military effort, Speer’s Denver observes how war opponents sought to get their message out in face of the repression of the day. A Colorado case, that of Perley Doe, emerged as a key Circuit Court decision upholding the legality of the Espionage Act. This chapter also includes an analysis of the 1918 flu pandemic, linking local and national themes.
Holding a Ph.D. in European history from the University of Colorado, Goodstein has turned to American and local history. More than anything, he hopes to give the citizenry a sense of place by emphasizing traditions and the legacy of a community which has been a highly transient, trendy city over the past couple of generations. Robert Speer’s Denver is volume two of a challenging trilogy, Denver from the Bottom Up, a comprehensive social history of the Mile High City from the Peaks Peak gold rush of 1858–59 to World War II. Volume one, From Sand Creek to Ludlow, covered the turbulent emergence of Denver and Colorado in the 19th century. Volume three, slated for publication in 2005, In the Shadow of the Klan, will treat how the Ku Klux Klan came to dominate Denver and Colorado in the mid-1920s.
Robert Speer’s Denver lists for $24.95. It is available for $22.50, postpaid, from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218.
In the Shadow of the Klan:
When the KKK Ruled Denver 1920–1926.
Volume three of the four-volume Denver from the Bottom Up. Denver: New Social Publications, 2006. 508 pp. ISBN 0–9742264–1–6. $24.95. 207 illustrations, index.
The Ku Klux Klan continues to haunt America. Virtually from the first appearance of the organization in the post–Civil War South, it has captured the attention of the country. This was never more the case than in the 1920s when it had somewhere between four million and eight million members. During that epoch, it was especially strong outside the South, controlling many city and state governments. Nowhere was it more visible than in Denver, Colorado.
Exactly what the Klan of the 1920s was, how it came to sink its claws in a typical Rocky Mountain city, and the way this related to the everyday lives of the populace are the subjects of Phil Goodstein’s ambitious new study, In the Shadow of the Klan: When the KKK Ruled Denver, 1920–1926. The 508-page, well-illustrated volume focuses on the fears and hopes of residents. It shows that Denver was not an exception to national urban trends, but very much an exemplar of what was happening in the country as a whole. In the process, the volume integrates Denver developments with those of Colorado and national politics.
Prior to World War I, the Mile High City had been a model Progressive community. It was torn apart by the war and an extremely violent strike of streetcar workers in August 1920. In the wake of this, demagogues sought to blame Jews, Catholics, and immigrants for the community’s lack of direction. They were encouraged by a wing of the Republican Party led by United States Senator Lawrence Phipps. Many Democrats likewise encouraged the masked minions. Not the least of their members was the man who won election as mayor in 1923 as a seemingly anti-Klan liberal, Benjamin Stapleton.
Ironies abound in the Klan story. The group’s leading lawyer was a Jew. The cloaked crusaders readily collaborated with the Catholic Church in ousting internationally acclaimed Juvenile Court Judge Ben Lindsey for his advocacy of sexual liberalism. The law-and-order Klan was filled with criminals, including Governor Clarence Morley who landed up in a federal penitentiary. All the while, a willing and compliant press allowed the Klan to operate with little public oversight.
All these themes and more fill In the Shadow of the Klan. The book probes the customs of Denver in the 1920s. It is volume three of Goodstein’s monumental survey of Denver from its founding during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in 1858–59 through World War II, Denver from the Bottom Up. The book appeals to both those interested in the specifics of the second Ku Klux Klan and students of urban history.
In the Shadow of the Klan lists for $24.95. It is available for $22.50, postpaid, from New Social Publications; Box 18026; Denver 80218.
These are simply a sampling of the tours and talks offered by Phil Goodstein. Call him at 303/333-1095 about booking your personal tour or talk for groups, reunions, and other activities.